Dr Nick Owen MBE PLUS

Working in and on the Business of Cultural Education


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Day 20 of the Basketball 2.6 Challenge: it’s mine – or the hoop gets it.

Unfortunately, through all the euphoria of smashing targets left right and centre, what’s getting forgotten in all this is the effect on the hoop.  The net gave up the ghost a long time ago and is pale imitation of what a basketball net should be like:  a hint of web, a trace of original function and fading memories of the joyful ‘whoosh’ sounds is all it has now.  Its misery is palpable.

The hoop on the other hand has been a bit more resilient but all those near misses, the thwack of the ball against the backboard, the pinging off the rim, the rattle of reluctant metal struggling with a spinning basketball; all these things are taking their toll on the poor old hoop.

If it makes it until Day 26 of the Challenge we shall be surprised and not a little relieved.  All it needs is for someone from the RSPCH  (the Royal Society of Protection against Cruelty to Hoops) to turn up and place an embargo on the whole proceedings, confiscating ball, hoop, net and soggy trainers to boot.  With some gentle pleading and some prayers to the God of Gravity to be lenient with the forces of nature, we should make it through but I’m not holding my breath.

In the meantime though, three rounds of 26 beckons…

DayAttemptsNear MissesBasketsEffort (Baskets/ Attempt)Baskets/ Minute (BPM)FeelGood FactorTotal timeTotal ShotsTotal BasketsSuccess rate
1N/A08N/A0.308N/A268
21940157.73%0.577N/A5219423
31898721.06%0.07746.03%78383256.5%
419010773.68%0.26956.32%104573325.6%
5192105115.73%0.42354.69%130765435.6%
616710863.59%0.23164.67%156932495.3%
7174114148.05%0.53865.52%1821,106635.7%
9180108168.89%0.61560.00%2341,286634.9%
101661181810.84%0.69271.08%2601,452795.4%
111811212011.05%0.76966.85%2861,633975.9%
121761152413.64%0.92365.34%3121,8091176.5%
131791112413.41%0.92362.01%3381,9881417.1%
141761251910.80%0.73171.02%3642,1641607.4%
151671013219.16%1.23160.48%3902,3311928.2%
16147903523.81%1.34661.22%4162,4782279.2%
171541023724.03%1.42366.23%4422,63226410.0%
18170944828.24%1.84655.29%4682,80231211.1%
19167845432.34%2.07750.30%4942,96936612.3%
20157747044.59%2.69247.13%5203,12643613.9%

You can find out why I’m taking the 2.6 Basketball Challenge here  Any help you can offer is much appreciated!.


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Day 19 of the Basketball 2.6 Challenge: Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!

Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!

You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout

Till you have drench’d our steeples, drown’d the cocks!

You sulphurous and thought-executing fires,

Vaunt-couriers to oak-cleaving thunderbolts,

Singe my white head! And thou, all-shaking thunder,

Smite flat the thick rotundity o’ the world!

Crack nature’s moulds, an germens spill at once,

That make ingrateful man!

On the other hand you storms, gales, hail stones

And much else that the English summer can throw at me,

You can do what you like but

Under the safety of the large chestnut tree

You are having no effect whatsoever on

My Mighty 2.6 Basketball Challenge.

My target: 26.

My Actualité: 54.

I be most grateful.

DayAttemptsNear MissesBasketsEffort (Baskets/ Attempt)Baskets/ Minute (BPM)FeelGood FactorTotal timeTotal ShotsTotal BasketsSuccess rate
1N/A08N/A0.308N/A268
21940157.73%0.577N/A5219423
31898721.06%0.07746.03%78383256.5%
419010773.68%0.26956.32%104573325.6%
5192105115.73%0.42354.69%130765435.6%
616710863.59%0.23164.67%156932495.3%
7174114148.05%0.53865.52%1821,106635.7%
9180108168.89%0.61560.00%2341,286634.9%
101661181810.84%0.69271.08%2601,452795.4%
111811212011.05%0.76966.85%2861,633975.9%
121761152413.64%0.92365.34%3121,8091176.5%
131791112413.41%0.92362.01%3381,9881417.1%
141761251910.80%0.73171.02%3642,1641607.4%
151671013219.16%1.23160.48%3902,3311928.2%
16147903523.81%1.34661.22%4162,4782279.2%
171541023724.03%1.42366.23%4422,63226410.0%
18170944828.24%1.84655.29%4682,80231211.1%
19167845432.34%2.07750.30%4942,96936612.3%
king Lear Day

You can find out why I’m taking the 2.6 Basketball Challenge here  Any help you can offer is much appreciated!.


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Day 18 of the Basketball 2.6 Challenge: the unchartered waters of Citius Altius Fortius

“You’re in unchartered waters,” remarked Yvonne, my independent invigilator as my PB was passed in record time. My PB, for those that haven’t been following is 37 baskets in 26 minutes and today saw that milestone fade away in the mists of history.

I nearly remarked that the whole last 18 days has been unchartered waters for me but decided to concentrate on the job in hand.  Not unchartered in the way that an ice breaker ploughs through Antarctic ice floes in search for unknown uranium deposits I grant you, but there have been moments of physical and emotional challenge, that’s for sure.

Sporting prowess was never something I’ve been able to claim with much authority over the years. I was too slow, too short sighted, too asthmatic or just too bored with the whole damn thing when it came to being last in line at school to be chosen for a football team only to be stuck in goal on miserable November afternoons with nothing to do but carve your name in the mud with your outsize football boots, plotting your revenge.

Ironically, picking up a medal at school for playing in the Colts rugby team (for my enthusiasm I found out afterwards) was about as good as it got until much later on, much to my surprise again, I was named ‘Player of the Year’ for the eighth division squash team which played out of Liverpool Cricket Club. 

Again, the reason alluded me at the time.  Contrary to what you might expect, we called ourselves the ‘Oxford team’ as that was the pub where we tended to gravitate after Thursday night league matches to celebrate our occasional success but more frequently to tend to our emotional wounds of hurt pride, embarrassment or just sheer frustration at what was, woulda, coulda, shoulda been that night.

 But despite the squash lows, there were many team highs, and the camaraderie was something I’ve long since treasured. Perhaps it was that, in the knowledge that my PB was probably at the end of a long list of sporting achievements in the league table of the club’s best performing athletes which led to them to offer a vote of sympathy with the POTY trophy.

But whatever the reason, it was a great night to be alive that evening and one of my PB memories of how sport can bind us and forge a community, despite its fundamental tenets of competitiveness, winning, losing and tribal loyalties. In the arts, we like to think that the arts are fundamental to building community, new relationships and a sense of civic duty which of course they are: but we shouldn’t forget that sport can achieve that too, without needing to be faster, higher or stronger than anyone else.

A PB of 48 shots into a basketball hoop which is beginning to physically suffer the slings and arrows of outrageously tossed basket balls doesn’t quite capture those emotional heights of the POTY trophy but it does bring another kind of satisfaction, even if it is about revelling in the statistics of an Excel spreadsheet.

Speaking of which….

DayAttemptsNear MissesBasketsEffort (Baskets/ Attempt)Baskets/ Minute (BPM)FeelGood FactorTotal timeTotal ShotsTotal BasketsSuccess rateTime for 26 (seconds)
1N/A08N/A0.308N/A26826-Apr
21940157.73%0.577N/A521942327-Apr
31898721.06%0.07746.03%78383256.5%28-Apr
419010773.68%0.26956.32%104573325.6%29-Apr
5192105115.73%0.42354.69%130765435.6%30-Apr
616710863.59%0.23164.67%156932495.3%01-May
7174114148.05%0.53865.52%1821,106635.7%02-May
9180108168.89%0.61560.00%2341,286634.9%04-May
101661181810.84%0.69271.08%2601,452795.4%05-May
111811212011.05%0.76966.85%2861,633975.9%06-May
121761152413.64%0.92365.34%3121,8091176.5%07-May
131791112413.41%0.92362.01%3381,9881417.1%08-May
141761251910.80%0.73171.02%3642,1641607.4%09-May
151671013219.16%1.23160.48%3902,3311928.2%12-May1,290
16147903523.81%1.34661.22%4162,4782279.2%13-May1,160
171541023724.03%1.42366.23%4422,63226410.0%14-May1,255
18170944828.24%1.84655.29%4682,80231211.1%15-May730

You can find out why I’m taking the 2.6 Basketball Challenge here  Any help you can offer is much appreciated!.


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Day 16 of the Basketball 2.6 Challenge: y = 1.8393x + 2.019

Not content with plotting the past, the numbers are now encouraging me to predict the future.

The genius of Excel allow you calculate a trendline based on past achievements, and plot your future with a high degree of mathematical certainty.  I’d say a precision level of certainty, found only in the Rolls Royce factories of Derby and the East Midlands.

This now means the end of idle guess work and those moments of anxiety fuelled by What the Heck? (or worse); Why On Earth? You’re ‘avin’ a laff’ can be replaced by the cool scientific endeavour of the linear forecast equation.

y = 1.8393x + 2.019

If you’ve been following the rather tortured trail of the last 15 days, you’ll have spotted the ever-increasing mountain of statistics which have led to the above statement.

It means in short, that I can be guaranteed that on day 20, I will have shot 39.8976 baskets; and by day 26 (the pinnacle of this challenge) I can safely predict a final score of 51.26118 baskets.  There’s a thought!  What 0.26118 of a basket consists of still has to be figured out but I’m guessing it’ll be something to do with those balls that spiral downwards, only to leap out again when you least expect it and when your invigilator has ticked it off as a score.

Praise the Lord for the Linear Forecast Equation and for the glimpse of the future it predicts!

DayAttemptsNear MissesBasketsEffort (Baskets/ Attempt)Baskets/ Minute (BPM)FeelGood FactorTotal timeTotal ShotsTotal BasketsSuccess rate
1N/A08N/A0.308N/A268
21940157.73%0.577N/A5219423
31898721.06%0.07746.03%78383256.5%
419010773.68%0.26956.32%104573325.6%
5192105115.73%0.42354.69%130765435.6%
616710863.59%0.23164.67%156932495.3%
7174114148.05%0.53865.52%1821,106635.7%
9180108168.89%0.61560.00%2341,286634.9%
101661181810.84%0.69271.08%2601,452795.4%
111811212011.05%0.76966.85%2861,633975.9%
121761152413.64%0.92365.34%3121,8091176.5%
131791112413.41%0.92362.01%3381,9881417.1%
141761251910.80%0.73171.02%3642,1641607.4%
151671013219.16%1.23160.48%3902,3311928.2%
16147903523.81%1.34661.22%4162,4782279.2%

You can find out why I’m taking the 2.6 Basketball Challenge here  Any help you can offer is much appreciated!.


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Day 14 of the Basketball 2.6 Challenge: it depends how you count ’em.

Some ago I made a cultural exchange visit to Finland as part of the Culture for Cities and Regions project. Touring around the Helsinki region, our guides were charmingly equivocal about what looked pretty straight forward.

Whether it was golf courses in Espoo (7 or 8), municipalities in Helsinki (4 or 14) or lakes in Finland (187,888 plus or minus), it all depends, as it turns out, on how you counted them. Our hosts were relativistic tour guides par excellence and thought nothing of giving the figures a  good interrogation as we drove up hill down dale and into a lake.

For phenomena which you might think are pretty unequivocal (when is a golf course not a golf course?), it turns out that there is a lot more to a thing than meets the eye.

Walking along the coastline of the Tooivo Kuulas park one morning you could see why. One moment the lake looks like an impressively large pond; the next it stretches way off into the distance and conjures up memories of Balaton Lake in Hungary; yet soon enough you find out that it’s not a lake at all but just another link in the supply chain to the Baltic Sea.

It struck me that the same case could be said for student attainment. How can a country’s education system said to be performing well? Through its ratings on the PISA scale? Numbers of students who graduate into work on completion of their undergraduate study? Aggregated ratings on a mental health scale of well being? Like the lakes in Finland, it depends on how you count them. My top PISA rating may be nothing more than a drop in your Baltic Sea when it comes to evaluating the relevance those ratings have on learners’ lives.

And when it comes to counting basketballs falling through hoops, the same principle clearly applies.  Does one successful shot equate to a ball falling into the hoop and then falling all the way to the ground?  Or could you count balls that fell partially through the hoop, only to inexplicably spin out upwards a short time later?

Whilst it’s temporarily startling that Espoo has a disputed number of golf courses in its territory, it is comforting to think that if we can’t count golf courses with confidence, we can confidently be a little less confident about the value of numbers when it comes to understanding the effects of cultural education on our children and indeed the number of occasions a basketball has properly fallen the requisite distance to qualify as a bona fide shot.

So, whilst today’s statistics might look like they’re disappointingly a bit shy of the target, we can find comfort in the spreadsheet when we realise that these numbers are not hard and fast things in their own right, but are subject to interpretation, imagination and the vagaries of the act of counting itself.

DayAttemptsNear MissesBasketsEffort (Baskets/ Attempt)Baskets/ Minute (BPM)FeelGood FactorTotal timeTotal ShotsTotal BasketsSuccess rate
1N/A08N/A0.308N/A268
21940157.73%0.577N/A5219423
31898721.06%0.07746.03%78470255.3%
419010773.68%0.26956.32%104767324.2%
5192105115.73%0.42354.69%1301,064434.0%
616710863.59%0.23164.67%1561,339493.7%
7174114148.05%0.53865.52%1821,627633.9%
9180108168.89%0.61560.00%2341,915633.3%
101661181810.84%0.69271.08%2602,199793.6%
111811212011.05%0.76966.85%2862,501973.9%
121761152413.64%0.92365.34%3122,7921174.2%
131791112413.41%0.92362.01%3383,0821414.6%
141761251910.80%0.73171.02%3643,3831604.7%

You can find out why I’m taking the 2.6 Basketball Challenge here  Any help you can offer is much appreciated!.


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Day 13 of the Basketball 2.6 Challenge: only halfway to paradise (or until the target re-sets).

There’s just another 13 days left but still just two tantalising baskets to shoot before I hit target of 26 baskets in under 26 minutes.  Mind you, what do you do when you hit target?  Generate another one of course.

Not content with shooting 26 basketballs in under 26 minutes (something unheard of for me not 14 days ago), the target driven mind decides to up the ante and find increasingly intricate ways to move the metaphorical goal posts (see Day 11 for further reasoning on this process).

26 baskets in under 26 minutes?  Meaningless.  Better change it to the fastest 26 baskets in under 26 minutes.  Better than that, aim for the maximum number of baskets you can shoot in 26 minutes.  Better than that even, maximise the effort, minimise the feel good factor and aim for a ration of 1 basket per shot per second for 26 minutes: ie 1,560 consecutive baskets.  This would give Anthony MIracola (see Day Seven) something to think about, even if it is an impossibly unrealistic target in the scheme of things.

But when did realism ever have anything to do with setting targets, hitting them and then resetting them with elevated levels of unrealism injected into them?  There’s something about a target culture which is both alluring, frustrating but ultimately addictive. 

Quite whether our broader target driven culture is actually making lives better for our children and young people is another matter, but you can be sure that as eggs is eggs (or until they become super-eggs), we won’t stop redefining them and setting ourselves increasingly ridiculous challenges, all for the sakes of some interesting statistics. 

Which today, for those who are addicted to such things look like this:

Day 13: shots per day of the Basketball 2.6 Challenge.

Or, as Billy Fury once crooned:

I’m only halfway to paradise

So near, yet so far away.

You can find out why I’m taking the 2.6 Basketball Challenge here  Any help you can offer is much appreciated!.


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Day Seven of the Basketball 2.6 Challenge: the ball is my friend.

Hard to believe but still true: the ball is becoming my friend. 

Not something to throw vehemently at the target, not something to disregard as if it were an intruder in your own private quest for the Holy Grail but an essential partner you have to coax, encourage and woo in your attempt to achieve something which, whilst on the one level is not especially an audacious attempt at the Guinness world record for basketball free throws (67 in one minute, since you ask, achieved by Anthony Miracola of the USA  in Temperance, Michigan on 5 April 2020) but still something you could look back in your dotage and confidently whisper,  ‘Yes, I did that.  Really I did” to your disbelieving great grandchildren.

Whether Miracola will have that pleasure remains to be seen. His life mission was to become “the greatest shooter” and had he turned up at my neighbour’s and shot 67 in one minute, we would have been on Twitter before you could shout Harlem Globetrotter. 

Mind you, the bigger question would have been could he have kept it up for the full 26 minutes? And how many near misses did he achieve in his 67 throws over that minute?  This might seem a curmudgeonly response to a Guiness World Record beater, but these statistics are critical in establishing the truth about what really makes a world record beater. 

My dad always used to say that it was all very well for a High Jumpers to jump 8’ ¼” but it was unfair that they landed on a mattress.  His argument was that if you wanted to jump high, you had to be able to land safely too, without assistance.  The fact that high jumpers would would be likely to break their backs in their attempts to be the best they could be, seemed to elude him.

Perhaps this rather tortuous logic worked its through the generations and has left me wondering how many near misses Miracola had in beating the world record: but you’ll see by the picture that he wasn’t short of a bit of technical help in his attempt on the World Record.

You’ll see that Miracola had an automatic ball feeder to help him. Presumably he didn’t have to go and chase the ball every time it spun around the hoop and leapt out towards a kichen window? Or extract it from the neighbours garden every time it bounced over his head?  These things matter in world record beating attempts!

Anyway, perhaps he’ll get in touch one day and we can share notes on how he shot 67 in one minute and how it took me 26 minutes to shoot 14 today.  I’m sure the ball (or the myriad of balls he used) were all his friends.  That’s what being a World Champion is all about: you’re everyone’s best friend, even if it is just for a minute.

But on a more cheering note, here are today’s ‘scores on the doors’.  I feel I’m on a tipping point and nearly ready to meet Anthony Miracola on any court of his choosing.  (Just give me a few more weeks, Anthony).

DayAttemptsNear MissesBasketsEffort (Baskets/ Attempt)Baskets/ Minute (BPM)FeelGood Factor
1N/AN/A8N/A0.308N/A
2194N/A157.73%0.577N/A
31898721.06%0.07746.03%
419010773.68%0.26956.32%
5192105115.73%0.42354.69%
616710863.59%0.23164.67%
7174114148.05%0.53865.52%

You can find out why I’m taking the 2.6 Basketball Challenge here  Any help you can offer is much appreciated!.


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Day Two of the Basketball 2.6 Challenge: Progress is many a splendoured thing.

Yesterday’s modest tally of eight baskets after 26 minutes was nothing if not a baseline. 

We’re used to baselines in education: in order to know how much we’ve progressed we need to know where we’ve started from and a data baseline (whether this be of fronted adverbials,   adjective declensions or educational attainment in general) is pretty much as good a starting point as any.

So, OK, eight baskets after 26 minutes may not count for much, but it does at least give you a baseline figure of 0.30769231 baskets per minute. (Doncha just love figures to eight decimal places?  They remind me of population statistics that state things like ‘2.4 people live In a normal household’.  Ever seen 0.4 of a person?  No, me neither unless you count those people lying comatose in the streets after a Covid-lockdown-release pub crawl.)

But I digress. 0.30769231 baskets per minute  (or BPM – note the immediate adoption of an acronym when it comes to measuring success) may or may or may not be a measure of success, but it is certainly a baseline.  And something to build on, as football managers are wont to say after the 15-0 thrashing of their side by their league’s minnows.  ‘We may have just been humiliated, Brian, by a team which is holding up the whole of the English football league, but our attacking spirit gave me hope and is something to build on.”

 So today, I was determined to build on that baseline of Day One and achieve success.  However, what often happens when you start to measure success, you find yourself with an overwhelming desire to measure all sorts of other things which you hope will indicate whether or not you are actually achieving anything, in what context you’re achieving it, whether you’re getting any better, or whether the whole endeavour is a complete waste of yours and everybody else’s time.

Today was a case in point.  Not content enough just to measure BPM  (Baskets per minute, do please keep up at the back), it struck me that it would be really useful not just to measure balls that followed a trajectory of hand air basket swoosh bounce and a triumphant yeh, but to measure how much effort this took. 

I arbitrarily decided that Yvonne, my independent invigilator, also now needed to start counting how many attempts I had made at causing that trajectory.  My feeling was that effort could be determined by calculating the ratio of the number of balls thrown to the number of successful baskets.  Logically, if every effort succeeded in achieving a basket, then my effort would be 100%. Note how one’s feelings could soon be legitimised by expressing an event in logical terms.  This gives one a curious sense of intellectual satisfaction, even if no-one else has been involved in the calculus.

So, count the number of attempts as well as the number of successes she did.  After 24 attempts I had scored precisely nul point meaning my effort was precisely zero.  However, on the 25th attempt I actually shot one basket meaning that my effort had increased dramatically to 0.04 exactly.  An infinite improvement on the situation I had found myself in just seconds before.  This was a very satisfying moment and gave me (if not Yvonne) confidence that we were moving in the right direction.  Something else to build on if you like.

Before I knew it  (well, actually after 26 minutes in fact) we stopped the challenge and counted up the ‘scores on the doors’ as Brucie like to chuckle in The Generation Game. 

15 hoops over 194 attempts over 26 minutes.

0.57692308 BPM.  Up from 0.30769231 BPM from the day before. An increase of a massive 87.500000%.

An effort score of 0.07731959 BPA. Good? Bad? Indifferent?  It is at least another baseline and something I look forward to building on over the remaining 24 days of the challenge. 

And BPA?  Baskets per Attempts of course.  Where would we be without our acronyms? Struggling to determine whether we were making any progress at all, that’s for sure.

You can find out why I’m involved in the 2.6 Challenge – and how you can help – here.

Thanks to the Sunday Night Quiz Gang for the graphic!